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December 11, 2017updated 12 Dec 2017 5:06pm

Quantum computing development kit previewed by Microsoft

The kit is designed to enable developers at any level to learn about quantum computing.

By April Slattery

A new Quantum Development Kit, aimed at helping developers learn how to program quantum computers, has been previewed by Microsoft.

Microsoft’s new Quantum Development Kit is designed for developers looking to learn how to program quantum computers, no matter what level of expertise they have in the field.

The company has released a free preview version of the kit and within it Microsoft has revealed a new programming language called Q#, pronounced Q Sharp, and tools that help coders craft software for quantum computers.

Deeply integrated into Visual Studio, the kit is designed to work with a local quantum simulator, which has the ability to simulate 30 logical qubits of quantum computing power. In turn, this allows developers to test programs on small instances on their own basic laptop computers.

For developers with larger-scale quantum challenges in their sights, Microsoft is also offering simulators on its cloud computing platform Azure to allow developers to simulate over 40 logical qubits of computing power.

Quantum Computing allows computers to perform calculations at a much quicker rate than everyday machines, enabling developers and businesses to tackle much more complex problems. Billed as the future of computing, the power of quantum computing promises to revolutionise many sectors, from healthcare to scientific research.

Quantum computing development kit previewed by Microsoft

Quantum Computing enables calculations to be carried out much quicker.

“What you’re going to see as a developer is the opportunity to tie into tools that you already know well, services you already know well,” Todd Holmdahl, corporate vice president in charge of Microsoft’s quantum effort, said.

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“There will be a twist with quantum computing, but it’s our job to make it as easy as possible for the developers who know and love us to be able to use these new tools that could potentially do some things exponentially faster – which means going from a billion years on a classical computer to a couple hours on a quantum computer.”

Within its quantum development, Microsoft has said it uses a different type of design, called topological quantum computing. In theory, this is meant to create more stable qubits in order to reduce the change of error.

Correcting or reducing errors in quantum computing is crucial to enable developers to reach the full potential with the software, as the lower the error rate, the better the computer is to tackle problems and take on applications.

Furthermore, developing such advances quantum computers with minimal error rate helps aid the advances that are expected in fields such as artificial intelligence. For example, in the future quantum computers will boost AI with the ability to sift through and analyse data much more quickly than a standard computer today.

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As well as the kit itself, Microsoft plans to develop a comprehensive suite of documentation, libraries and program samples. In doing so it gives users the background needed to start planning aspects of quantum computing.

Holmadhl said, “The hope is that these tools will make the power of quantum computing accessible to many more people.”

The Quantum Kit makes up part of Microsoft’s plan to develop a fully-fledged quantum computing system, including all aspects of quantum computing hardware to full software stack.

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